Russian authorities have moved to shut down the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, asking the country’s Supreme Court to declare the denomination an extremist organization.
If successful, the appeal by the Justice Ministry, filed with the court on March 15, would be the first time that an entire registered religious denomination had been banned in Russian law.
The denomination, which says it has 170,000 adherents in Russia, said the appeal specifically targets the organization’s main headquarters in St. Petersburg.
An organization spokesman said being labeled extremist would effectively force the entire shutdown of the group’s Russian activities.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of several religious denominations that have come under increasing pressure in Russia in recent years.
A measure known as Yarovaya’s Law that went into effect last year tightens restrictions on the activities of religious groups, particularly smaller denominations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and some evangelical sects.
Russian authorities have said the law, which backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, is aimed at helping to fight religious extremism and terrorism.